Oregon is one team that will be affected if offenses are forced to slow down. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)
We’ve all heard that phrase, right? If there is nothing wrong with something, don’t go trying to change it. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.
Apparently, some football coaches in the NCAA are having a hard time understanding this.
This past week, the NCAA Football Rules Committee, made up mostly of football coaches and athletic directors from around the country, proposed a rule that would make it illegal for an offense to snap the ball before 10 seconds runs off of the 40-second play clock. If the offense were to snap the ball before the play clock strikes 29, it would be a five-yard penalty.
Essentially, this is a rule to stop up-tempo offenses.
An epidemic of up-tempo offenses has taken over the NCAA as of late. The trend of not huddling before running plays went from a late game strategy to a full-on offensive philosophy in the last five or so years. Now, it seems like every other team is forgoing the huddle on Saturdays.
How did this rule proposal come to be, you ask?
Many coaches, some on the rules committee, others not, are hiding behind the guise of “player safety,” arguing that with no huddles, defenses don’t have time to substitute, thus making their players more prone to injury. On first glance, it seems like a pretty sound argument. Who wouldn’t want players to be safer, especially in a sport as dangerous as football?
The problem is there is no data to back that statement up. There has not been a rise in injuries to defensive players as the amount of plays run per game began to increase. Plain and simple, this proposal seems to originate from coaches’ desires to slow down an offensive system that has been taking over college football and getting great results.
This past year, four of the 10 teams that played in BCS Bowl games ran some type of up-tempo attack on offense. Auburn, the national runner-up this year, runs an up-tempo system. Baylor, which averaged 52 points per game and finished the season 11-2, ran the fifth most plays per game in the country.
Up-tempo offenses are working and this is a bogus rule proposal to slow them down.
Rich Rodriguez, the head football coach at the University of Arizona, has been running this style of offense his whole career. The offense he runs has, in part, led to his great successes as a coach, at levels ranging from high school to the highest rung of college football. He best sums up the general opinion of this rule proposal.
“It’s ridiculous,” Rodriguez said. “For me, it goes back to the fundamental rules of football. The offense knows where they are going and when they are going to snap the ball. That’s their advantage. The defense is allowed to move all 11 guys before the ball is snapped. That’s their advantage.What’s next? You can only have three downs? If you play that extra down you have more chance of injury?”
The timing of this possible change couldn’t be worse, either. Never has college football been more popular, and you can bet that these fast-paced offenses play a large part in that because fans enjoy scoring. It’s more fun to see the ball flying around the field and teams scoring at will.
And whatever happened to defenses trying their best to stop the newest innovations in football? Since when was pursuing a rule change the way to go about stopping an offense that is dominating on the field? You’re telling me coaches like Nick Saban, one man who is for the proposal, can’t come up with a way to stop an offense?
“Should we allow football to be a continuous game?” Saban has argued. “Is that the way the game was designed to play?”
Football was also designed without the forward pass, Nick. Should we have kept it that way, too?
One of my favorite parts of the game of football is that it is always evolving. If you’re not coming up with a new way to beat your opponent, another coach is. It’s a game of athletic chess, and the coach who comes up with a better way to utilize his players comes out on top.
The proposal goes before the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6. If it is approved there, the rule will go into effect in the fall of 2014, and college football will be dramatically different from when we left it in early January.
My fingers are crossed. Let’s hope football doesn’t slow down anytime soon.